Understanding Change Management vs. Digital Transformation

There has been a developing phrase in the business world, “change management,” and it’s being utilized to define what makes a business thrive. I am not here to try and use convoluted business vocabulary in a vague sense as most of us did in front of our high school business teacher to get that “A”. Corporate jargon only gets you so far. It’s time to better understand change management and its differences from digital transformation as the two are often conflated. 

Defining Our Terms

So, what exactly is change management?

The most consistent thing in business is change, therefore change management is the collective term for all approaches to prepare, support, and help individuals, teams and organizations in making and dealing with changes. It covers a wide scope and lands anywhere from an individual to an entire organization, and everything in between. The changes can consist of cultural, structural, hierarchal, workflow, business processes, products or services, or technological. Typically, businesses leverage change management when they find themselves needing to change in order to keep up with global developments.

Change management is a newly developed term for something that’s always been present. The goal of it is to consistently improve business – whether that’s to be more competitive, creating a better culture, or building efficiency. 

Then, what's digital transformation?

Digital transformation is the process of integrating digital technology into a business. It most obviously effects technology, but also effects culture, work environment, business processes, and more. The scope of digital transformation is wide reaching considering that the digital age we currently live in incorporates technology in almost everything. The process frequently includes strategy, user centric design, integration of software, data and analytics, product design and execution and more. 

Change management and digital transformation: Similar but different

The terms change management and digital transformation are similar in that they both try to achieve the same goal – to adapt. Whether the business anticipates change and moves to beat the curve, or it’s the result of outside changes that must be adapted to, the goal is to grow and optimize as a company. Most of the changes that are made in a company most often have to do with technology as a result of our digital age. This is where the conflating of the terms occurs. Rather than the terms being interchangeable, the practice of both positions are meant to work together. They are two different practices that meet at an overlap and aid each other – they are not the same.

Which is more important?

This is actually a trick question! They are both important and work better in cohesion. Here’s an example scenario: You want to make a change in marketing for your company that fits under change management. One approach would be fixing your website – which would then fall under digital transformation. There rarely is a pinpointed approach to fix or adjust something. It’s typically a holistic approach that makes the most sense for growth.

There was a famous rivalry in the late 1800’s between French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur and French physiologist Claude Bernard. Pasteur believed in removing the pathogen, a pinpointed approach. Bernard believed in strengthening the terrain, or the body as a whole, to combat disease. In a blog post recounting the rivalry, it’s said that while Pasteur was on his death bed, he stated, “Bernard was right: the pathogen is nothing, the terrain is everything.”

So, what does this piece of history have to do with change management vs. digital transformation?

It’s crucial to consider the whole terrain of the company (change management) that’s made up of interconnected departments like the interconnected systems of the body (digital transformation). Both are of significant importance.

Now that we’ve gone in depth on the nuances of change management and digital transformation, we hope you can apply both practices to help your company adapt and grow. 

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